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Cascade High School students learn science by the shovel full

Cascade High School potato harvest. Photo courtesy of Everett Public Schools.
Cascade High School potato harvest. Photo courtesy of Everett Public Schools.

From an Everett Public Schools news release.

Reclaiming overgrown greenhouses, club creates aquaponic, self-sustaining crops.

Every student wielded a shovel, a rake or carried concrete cinder blocks into the newly cleared greenhouse.

Once inaccessible, completely filled with blackberry vines, the green houses at Cascade High School were getting an overhaul.

Cascade High School’s Environmental Arts Club and advisor, Jack Mcleod, began the reclaim project in 2012 with one of two greenhouses and the help of several grants, including Food Corp (Whole Foods), Everett Public Schools Foundation, and Lowe’s for building supplies.

They also partnered with local nonprofit Farmer Frog.

Then came raised beds outside the greenhouses.

The second greenhouse was reclaimed the spring of 2015 and the inner workings are still under construction.

“The students are learning to build a self-sustaining food system,” explained Mcleod.

“The nitrogen-rich water from the fish tanks will feed the plants. As the water moves through the system, bacteria will naturally break down nitrogen compounds absorbed by the plants so the water can flow back into the fish tanks as clean water.”

Mcleod added they are in the process of adding sweetwater shrimp to the ecosystem. Both the fish and shrimp can be used as a food source as well as providers of nutrients to the plant crops.

In 2015, the club grew carrots, which were served in the school cafeteria. They’ve also grown tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, spinach, kale and other greens.

For more history of the project and photos of its progression, go to the CHS Environmental Arts Facebook page.

“Every year a new group of students steps up with energy and new ideas. It’s joyful to see them take pride in building all these systems and learning how to grow food,” added Mcleod.

“I’ve seen so many kids pick and eat fresh produce right out of the garden for the first time in their lives. And they’re proud of doing community service.”

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